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by Tony Gjokaj May 22, 2024 5 min read

When I was training clients in the past around exercise and nutrition, one of the most common things I found was the lack of protein in their diets.

Some of them held onto myths they've heard in the past about protein being only for bodybuilders, or protein making you too bulky.

These kind of things are completely wrong.

In my opinion, prioritizing your protein is one of the best ways to see some significant progress not only in the gym, but also achieving your muscle growth or fat loss goals.

And I'm going to explain why.

In this post, I wanted to present to you the Ultimate Protein Guide for beginners, and more experienced fitness goers.

This guide was created to simplify protein, and even present you some hacks that will aid you on your journey.

Let's dive in!

What Is Protein?

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps repair and develop new cells.

These cells consist of our skin, muscles, nails, and physique.

It also helps repair broken down muscles as a result of exercise.

Protein also helps fight fatigue and aids in muscle retention, which is extremely important when it comes to dieting for fat loss.

Why is Protein Important?

Firstly, protein is essential for muscle retention and growth.

After intense workouts, your muscles need protein to maintain muscle, and even grow muscle.

This is especially important if you’re lifting weights or engaging in other high-intensity activities.

Protein is extremely important on a fat loss diet.

This is because being in a calorie deficit means your body will lose weight in the form of muscle, water, and fat.

Having some protein in your diet helps retain muscle.

Secondly, protein helps keep you fuller for longer, and feel more satisfied when eating.

This can be a game-changer if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet, because it makes it a lot easier to stay away from more calorically-dense processed foods.

Lastly, digesting protein burns more calories than carbs or fats.

This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF), and it can help you burn more calories throughout the day.

Best Sources of Protein

When it comes to protein sources, not all proteins are created equal.

Here are some quality proteins I recommend having in your diet.

Animal-Based Proteins

  • Chicken BreastA staple for many, it's high in protein and low in fat.
  • Lean Beef: Great for building muscle, plus it provides iron and B vitamins.
  • Eggs: Packed with high-quality protein and essential nutrients.
  • Fish:Salmon, tuna, and other fish are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Plant-Based Proteins

  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of protein and fiber.
  • Tofu and Tempeh: Versatile and packed with protein, these soy products are great for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Quinoa: A complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds provide protein along with healthy fats.

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements can be a convenient way to meet your daily protein needs, especially if you’re on the go.

Whey Protein has been a staple in my routine since I started working out, and it is arguably the best protein source out there.

While animal proteins do have a ton of amino acids and even vitamins and minerals, some whey proteins on the market have the best amino acid profiles.

Two I recommend are Build Whey Protein, and Nutricost Whey Protein Isolate.

    Protein Recommendations

    When it comes to protein, recommendations are individualized based on whether or not you’re sedentary, you work out a lot, or other situations (like pregnancy or dieting for fat loss).

    If you are physically active, consider consuming around 0.8–1g per pound of bodyweight.

    It's a pretty good ballpark range for most people.

    If you've got 50-100lbs+ to lose, this recommendation would probably be too much protein.

    Going as low as 0.4-0.8g per pound should be a pretty good, with the lower end being for those who have over 100lbs to lose.

    Breaking Protein Down Into Hand Portions

    If you’re not tracking macronutrients or calories, you can hit your protein goals with hand portions.

    A great starting point to get closer to hitting your protein goals is by having 1–2 palm servings of protein per meal.

    One palm serving is usually around 20–30g of protein, which is around 120 calories per palm serving.

     

    5 Protein-Powered Hacks

    The following are a few protein-powered hacks to get started on your journey.

    1. Prep Protein-Packed Snacks

    Keep high-protein snacks ready to go.

    This can help curb hunger and ensure you're getting enough protein throughout the day.

    Some great options include:

    • Greek yogurt with nuts or seeds
    • Cottage cheese with fruit
    • Hard-boiled eggs
    • Jerky (look for low-sodium options)
    • Protein bars (check for minimal added sugars)

    2. Add Protein to Your Morning Routine

    Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast.

    This sets the tone for your entire day and keeps you fuller longer.

    Easy ways to do this include:

    • Adding protein powder to your morning smoothie
    • Scrambling eggs with veggies and a sprinkle of cheese
    • Mixing cottage cheese with fruit and a drizzle of honey
    • Choosing Greek yogurt over regular yogurt

    3. Make Protein Part of Every Meal

    Aim to include a source of protein in every meal.

    This can be easier than you think:

    • Top salads with grilled chicken, tofu, or beans
    • Add lentils or beans to soups and stews
    • Include a side of quinoa or a handful of nuts with your meals
    • Use whole grains like farro or barley, which have higher protein content
    • Add two scoops of whey protein in oatmeal with blueberries or strawberries (this has been a staple of mine for years!)

    4. Batch Cook Protein-Rich Foods

    Spend some time each week cooking large batches of protein-rich foods.

    This can save time and ensure you always have protein on hand.

    The following are some ideas to consider:

    • Bake a batch of chicken breasts or thighs and slice them for easy meal additions
    • Cook a pot of quinoa or lentils to mix into salads or as side dishes
    • Prepare a large frittata or egg muffins for quick breakfasts
    • Grill a variety of vegetables and pair them with lean meats or tofu

    5. Sneak Protein into Baked Goods

    Boost the protein content of your baked goods by adding protein powder or using high-protein ingredients.

    Here’s how I've explored this in the past:

    • Replace part of the flour in pancakes or muffins with protein powder
    • Use Greek yogurt or cottage cheese in place of butter or oil in recipes
    • Incorporate nuts, seeds, or nut butter into your baking
    • Choose recipes that use almond or chickpea flour for an extra protein punch

    These hacks can make a significant difference in hitting your daily protein goals without too much hassle.

    Keep things varied and interesting, and your clients will find it easier to stick to their nutrition plans.

    Health Conditions That Require Lower Protein

    In regards to protein intake for kidney health, it’s important to note that unless you have underlying health conditions, a higher protein intake may not necessarily be something to worry about.

    However, people who are more prone (or have) kidney or liver diseases should consider lower their protein intake for health purposes.

    Remember that you should always consult with a doctor or physician when it comes to special food considerations such as this one.

    I Need Me Some Protein!

    Protein is a vital component of any fitness journey, whether you’re aiming to build muscle, lose weight, or simply stay healthy. By understanding your protein needs, choosing the right sources, and timing your intake strategically, you can maximize the benefits and fuel your body for success.

    Remember, consistency is key.

    Make protein a regular part of your diet, and pair it with a balanced intake of carbs and fats, regular exercise, and plenty of rest. 

    With that being said, I hope this guide helps you level up your fitness goals.

    Until next time!

    Tony Gjokaj
    Tony Gjokaj

    Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.



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